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Sid Sachs’s ‘Invisible City,’ Philadelphia’s bustling experimental art scene, 1956-76

On this 39 minute episode of Artblog Radio, Roberta interviews Sid Sachs about his multi-venue exhibition "Invisible City" (now closed to the public due to Covid-19). We highly recommend this insightful conversation on Philadelphia's experimental art scene in the 50s-70s.


[ED. Note: Due to Covid-19, the exhibition is currently closed to the public, but we encourage you to tune in to learn about the project and the upcoming catalog! Also, check out the Invisible City website.]

Sid Sachs. Photo edited for Artblog.
Sid Sachs. Photo edited for Artblog.

On this episode of Artblog Radio, Roberta speaks with Sid Sachs, Director of Exhibitions at University of the Arts and curator of Invisible City, an exhibition located in multiple venues featuring experimental art during Philadelphia from 1956-1976! The episode is 39 minutes long and touches on Sid’s lived experience as an artist and curator in Philadelphia as well as the exhibition’s inception and organizational process. In Andrea Kirsh’s Artblog review of the exhibition, she calls Invisible City a “major act of historical recovery.”

You can listen to Artblog Radio on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Thank you to Kyle McKay for composing Artblog Radio’s original podcast intro and outro!

Roberta Fallon: Hi everyone. It’s Roberta Fallon, and you’re listening to Artblog Radio. Thanks for being with us. Today, I am at the beautiful studios, soundproof studios, recording studios at REC Philly. We’re very excited to have a membership in REC Philly, which is in the Fashion District building, if you haven’t heard of it. Um, it’s a cool space for makers and creators, and we are recording with Sid Sachs today. Hello, Sid.

Sid Sachs: Hi, how are you?

Roberta Fallon: Sid is the Director of Exhibitions at University of the Arts. He’s a trained artist. Tyler undergrad, Rutgers grad student, writer, educator, curator. Sid has been an astute observer of the art and artists in Philadelphia for decades now.

He’s passionate about the early years of the art scene in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, and has now produced a kind of Magnum Opus, multi-venue, fast festival called Invisible City, which you may have heard tell of. It’s a wonderful series of exhibits, a symposium, and performances, and introducing a new audience to the material that was going on in Philadelphia back in these, you know, crucial years. So we’re here to learn more about Invisible City and more about what’s coming up next for Sid Sachs. So thank you, Sid, for being here.

Sid Sachs: Okay.

Roberta Fallon: Let’s start out with talking about the idea for Invisible City. How’d you get the name? What, tell me what the name comes from.
Sid Sachs: Everybody thinks it’s from Calvino and it sort of is, but not really…

Roberta Fallon: ( Italo) Calvino, the writer?

Sid Sachs: Right, but that’s Invisible Cities, plural.

Roberta Fallon: Oh.

Sid Sachs: And I would, this is individual, this is individual. This is, Invisible City, Philadelphia. And to me, I’ve always been shocked that having gone to school here and having worked here for decades, … there are wonderful things going on in Philadelphia and that somehow the information doesn’t percolate outside of the city. So that it hasn’t entered into history in the way that certain other cities like Chicago or LA or, you know, or Detroit have.
Roberta Fallon: Yeah, Chicago has the Chicago Imagists, right? That’s a big well known thing. Well,

Sid Sachs: Well, it has that, but it also, it had the Institute of Design. Moholy Nagy was there and Mies van der Rohe was there so it has this other history that goes back to the Bauhaus, plus they had the New Art Examiner.

Roberta Fallon: Yes.

Sid Sachs: They had a lot of publicity coming out of-

Roberta Fallon: That was a publication, right, that you used to write for?

Sid Sachs: I actually brought it here in 1980, and it was here for 16 years.

Roberta Fallon: A print publication or review publication-

Sid Sachs: Print publication.

Roberta Fallon: That was nationally based-

Sid Sachs: Well, it had a regional focus, but it was national, so it had Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New York, and had good criticism. I mean, Jerry Saltz, Jerry Saltz worked on it.

Roberta Fallon: No kidding.

Sid Sachs: Now he’s a Pulitzer prize winner.

Roberta Fallon: Wow. That’s good breeding ground for Pulitzers then, I guess. So you picked that title, and how long have you been working on this show from the start of the general concept to the implementation to getting the money?

Sid Sachs: Well, since we brought the New Art Examiner. In 1983, I did a cover story for the New Art Examiner because the College Art Association was here. It was an article called the, “Does Philadelphia have an Imagist Tradition too?” And I was connecting it ( Philadelphia) to Chicago, so I was talking about Italo Scanga, Ree Morton, and some other people like that. So it goes maybe back to ’83. About, maybe eight or nine years ago, I was in a group that Pew set up with Independent Curators Incorporated.

They asked us to think out of the box, and I actually couldn’t do that. I wanted to do this show [Sid laughs]. So, so, um, I think Paula-

Roberta Fallon: You thought outside their box

Sid Sachs: Well, it was, what was interesting is that the people from, there were all these curators coming from Europe and New York and all over the United States, and every time I brought up the topic, they said, “Oh, that sounds like a good idea”. I’m not sure that Paula thought it was a good idea at that point. But then I got a discovery grant, and so I knew that I had enough information and I could find the objects. And then… so I’ve been working on it at least six years.

Roberta Fallon: Wow, six years. If we don’t go back to 1983.

Sid Sachs: Yeah, if we don’t go back to 1983.

Roberta Fallon: But, you know, going back to 1983 is very interesting. So what did you decide in this New Art Examiner article? Did we have an imagist tradition?

Sid Sachs: Yeah, there was a correlation between Chicago and Philadelphia, but we are also, I was also trying to tap into the Chicago audience. And also the College Art Association was here, so I was trying to bring them into Philadelphia. So it was kind of a double purpose.

Roberta Fallon: Very clever. Yeah, so-

Sid Sachs: It was kind of an interesting article. And I remember I went to New York and I was on a panel at Parsons, and people on the panel had read it, and I was shocked because I thought it was just a Chicago newspaper and there were people in New York that they were congratulating me on the article. So it, people read it.

Roberta Fallon: That’s what they came to Philly to look at some of that art then. Who knows, right? Um, well let’s talk about the artists. Let’s explain, back up just a little bit, and tell everybody who doesn’t know, how many venues you have rounded up, and talk about the artists at the different venues are the ones you want to highlight.

Sid Sachs: It’s a really large project. There’s over 70 artists, I don’t know how many objects.

Roberta Fallon: Wow.

Sid Sachs: So, um, because it was so large, um, um, the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery where I normally work is completely filled. We took over five galleries at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, which the University of the Arts owns, the Gershman Hall when you enter the building has a really important ephemera, posters, books. And then on the third floor is where Alex Da Corte did Allan Kaprow’s Chicken the other day.

Roberta Fallon: Yeah, I’m gonna wanna hear about that later.

Sid Sachs: And then, at PAFA in the Furness Building in the back left gallery, we have a beautiful gallery with about, I think seven artists in it.
Roberta Fallon: In the Furness Building. That’s the historical building.

Sid Sachs: Right.

Roberta Fallon: Huh. In one of those grand academic-looking salon style-

Sid Sachs: Well because they have the Lee Alter collection, I pitched it that we would have installations by women. So we have two Ree Mortons and two Cynthia Carlson’s, a Jody Pinto, who taught there, a beautiful installation by Catherine Jansen, two major works by Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who was here briefly, but significantly. That’s when the Maintenance Manifesto was written in Philadelphia.

Roberta Fallon: It was written in Philadelphia?

Sid Sachs: It was written in Philadelphia.

Roberta Fallon: I did not know that.

Sid Sachs: That’s why it’s in the show. And there’s an early work by Hannah Wilke when she was in Philadelphia, and then a later piece from ’76 that was done behind the Large Glass. And then the last thing is a Judith Bernstein drawing. Judith Bernstein wasn’t a Philadelphia artist, but there was, in 1974, there was a major show. It was called Focus: Women in the Arts, and there was a 12-foot Judith Bernstein drawing that was censored. So we have the study for that drawing.

Roberta Fallon: [Roberta laughs] So, wow, 70 artists. So did you curate all these venues there? You’ve got multiple venues there, so-

Sid Sachs: I curated it. Yeah, I did. And install; I figured out the installation.

Roberta Fallon: Wow.

Sid Sachs: And I physically installed some of it, but Michael Cierzo, who’s amazing and a crew was responsible for the installation.

Roberta Fallon: Cool, and all of these shows are currently available for people to see right?

Sid Sachs: It’s up till April 4th.

Roberta Fallon: Till April 4th, okay. Go see this stuff. This is really important. Philadelphia capsule history from the era. Right. And it is-

Sid Sachs: It’s from ’56 to ’76.

Roberta Fallon: Okay, ’56 to-

Sid Sachs: It’s mostly late sixties to the, to ’76, but there are a few works from 1950 in it, and the catalog, which will be coming out, which is 300 pages, explains some of the works from the 1950s that we might not have actual the objects. And some of the objects don’t exist. There was a maquette by Robert Smithson for his first earthwork, which was planned for Philadelphia. So the maquette doesn’t exist, but it’s photographed in the book.

Roberta Fallon: Huh! Interesting. Wow. So when the catalog is forthcoming and-

Sid Sachs: It’s on press right now, it just has to be printed and bound and shipped back to us.

I don’t know when it will be here. I thought it would have been here. Yeah, way before this time, but it’s, it’s a major undertaking. We’ve never done a catalog that big.

Roberta Fallon: That’s super. And where can people…. get a copy?

Sid Sachs: at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, or contact the University of the Arts, or the Art Alliance.

Roberta Fallon: Okay.

So copies around town. Um, let’s focus on the Rosenwald Wolf show, which is the one that I saw. I haven’t seen the others yet, I’m looking forward to that.

Sid Sachs: Okay.

Roberta Fallon: You have what I thought was a particularly spare installation given that it’s 70 artists… I was expecting, I mean- not all in that one gallery, obviously- but I was expecting it to be not salon style, but hung more congested with more artists in it.

But how many are in that show at Rosenwald Wolf? It’s Italo Scanga, yeah? Frank Bramblett?

Sid Sachs: There’s Italo Scanga, Frank Bramblett, Carl Fernbach-Flarsheim, William Schwedler, Hans Haacke, Bill Richardson, Rafi Ferrer…

Roberta Fallon: There’s a woman…

Sid Sachs: Phil Simkin. There is Bill Beckley, Chuck Fahlen, Bill Walton. And Joan Watson.

Roberta Fallon: Right. So twelve…

Sid Sachs: That’s the installation.

Roberta Fallon: Yeah. So let’s talk about that

Sid Sachs: And some of the artists have multiple pieces, so it’s not just like, Italo has three, and Rafi has three. And…

Roberta Fallon: it’s an eclectic show

Sid Sachs: Oh! And William Anastasi. I forgot that.

Roberta Fallon: Is that one of the subway ( drawings)?

Sid Sachs: That’s the brick piece on the floor.

Roberta Fallon: Okay. There’s a brick piece on the floor by William Anastasi.

All right. How did you select those pieces to be there as opposed to what’s in the Art Alliance? Is there- or at PAFA you have all the women artists, is that right?

Sid Sachs: And there are women at the Art Alliance too. It actually, the show started out- it was going to be five sculptors. In fact, one of my advisors was Robert Pincus-Witten, and he said, “You should just do those five sculptors.”

Roberta Fallon: Who is Robert Pincus-Witten?

Sid Sachs: Robert Pincus-Witten was a really important art historian and critic who coined Post-minimalist works and things like that. And so these, these sculptors were from that period. But Kate Kraczon did the Ree Morton show and it kind of sucked up a lot of material. It was really hard to get material by Ree Morton.

Roberta Fallon: This is the show that was at ICA.. a year ago?

Sid Sachs: that was at the ICA that’s traveling. So, and so on, I tend to be… overly ambitious, and this may have been even more ambitious than normal. So this became more of a cultural history, more than just a sculptural history. So it incorporates- it even has music in the catalog, Philadelphia music, which is really important.

Roberta Fallon: How did you incorporate the music into the catalog?

Sid Sachs: Well, John Szwed, who I met at the University of Pennsylvania on a panel. He’s written about Sun Ra, and John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday, of all three of whom had connections to Philadelphia. And he’s also done, he’s working on a Harry Smith book as well, he’s done other books.

He’s kind of really amazing polymath, who has been at many Ivy league schools and lives in Philadelphia. So he wrote the essay on music.

Roberta Fallon: Got it, so you don’t have physical music in the catalog, like a CD or a thumb drive or anything, but you have-

Sid Sachs: We actually have a reel-to-reel tape of Terry Riley’s first all night concert, or at least part of it. That was (published) in Bill Copley’s edition of S.M.S. press. Bill Copley used to make these editions that would go through the mail, like multiples and-

Roberta Fallon: Mail art?

Sid Sachs: Well, it wasn’t really mail art. It was like editions. So you would subscribe to these editions and they would get shipped in the mail. So they were printed objects, like they were, um, Bill Schwedler had an offset print that you could cut apart.

I don’t know if it’s die cut or if he had to take scissors, but you could build a little construction out of it. And so that was one of them. And then, um, this one reel-to-reel tape. Of the Terry Riley concert. That’s a long story in itself. But, Dieter Roth had his first one person show in the United States at the Philadelphia College of Art, which is now UArts.

And he wanted some of his friends to come down and show or perform. So he had Nam June Paik and Charlotte Mormon and Lamont Young and Terry Riley. So when Terry Riley came… in back of Hamilton Hall, there’s (now) a glass enclosure, but it used to be open to the sky, used to have a pond in the 1960s. So people slept outdoors in hammocks and sleeping bags and listened to Terry Riley perform all night.

Roberta Fallon: All night?

Sid Sachs: And so part of that tape, yeah. Part of that recording, is on CDs, but it’s also in this reel-to-reel tape that’s part of this edition by Bill Copley.

Roberta Fallon: And where can one hear this?

Sid Sachs: Uh, you can’t… there is a CD that’s online that you can maybe buy. You can’t hear the reel-to-reel tape. They’re kind of rare. They were only… the later editions of the S.M.S., were editioned cassette recordings. But we have an earlier one in the library.

Roberta Fallon: So cultural history, let’s go back into that a little bit more. You mentioned that. What was the culture like in Philadelphia when, you know from this era?

Sid Sachs: Um…

Roberta Fallon: Was it a lot of hippy dippy stuff going on and…?

Sid Sachs: Well that was everywhere. There was surprisingly, Rittenhouse Square as one of the places where hippies hung out and Samson Street, (it) wasn’t South Street necessarily. South Street was a little bit later.

Roberta Fallon: Really?

Sid Sachs: Yeah. In fact, I was doing a PowerPoint at the Art Alliance, and I had a record cover for the Orlons who did South Street, right?
But it had other, other songs, and one of the songs was “Between 18th and 19th on Chestnut Street,” which is kind of a-

Roberta Fallon: That’s a song?

Sid Sachs: It’s a song. It’s kind of a terrible song, but if you go online and listen to it, it talks about all the hippies meeting on Chestnut Street between 18th and 19th, which was kind of right around the corner, but between Sansom at Rittenhouse Square, so it was kind of a nexus between different cultures.

Um, I think, the 12th Street’s known as the Gayborhood now. I think it was Rittenhouse Square more at certain times too. So it’s the culture (that) changes from time to time in Philadelphia as it does any other city. There was, there were coffee houses, like the Gilded Cage and then there were rock clubs, like The Trauma. And then Electric Factory which was on Arch Street, but those were, they started on Arch- they started on Rittenhouse, Samson Street and worked their way up to Arch.

Roberta Fallon: Hm, and where the artists hang out?

Sid Sachs: The artists were-

Roberta Fallon: Where did you hang out?

Sid Sachs: Well, I was, during this time period, I was at Tyler, so I was living up on North Broad Street.

Roberta Fallon: Elkins Park, yeah.

Sid Sachs: Actually, it wasn’t literally in Elkins Park, but almost there. I was still in Philadelphia because I couldn’t find an apartment in Elkins Park. Elkins Park was pretty ritzy back then in the 60s. But the students, Tyler students moved down Broad Street a little bit. So they were on Old York Road and on Broad Street.

Roberta Fallon: And did you go to these 18th and 19th Street hangouts or where did the artists go?

Sid Sachs: I remember seeing Dave van Ronk at the Gilded Cage. Um, I have no idea why I was there, but, you know, like in the 60s, like I saw Nina Simone at the Academy of Music. I saw Judy Collins there. I mean, it was, and then there was the, in the, there was the Main Point in Bryn Mawr and I saw, um, blues, blues bands there and things like that.

So they were, things were spread out. There was a coffee house, I can’t remember the name of it, in German, Germantown. And there was the Bandbox which had great movies in Germantown in the 1960s. I mean, it was before the Ritz. So, um, I remember seeing (castle Betty’s faces) in, in, uh, the Bandbox in Germantown.

Roberta Fallon: So it sounds like it was more sprawling then.

Sid Sachs: I don’t think there was one center.

Roberta Fallon: Not that there’s one center now.

Sid Sachs: No, but I mean, Tyler was its own entity. I think Germantown had a little bit of more Bohemian culture going on. And then there was obviously Samson Street and then South Street. South Street happened by accident, Ed Bacon wanted to have a thoroughfare going through South Street. And so the property values dropped so people could get those buildings for a song. And then there were protests by Denise Scott Brown and others in the community, who stopped that from happening. It later became the Blue Route. It moved over the highway that he wanted it to be.

It went up the Crum Creek. But because people were already moved into South Street, East of Broad Street, that became like Greenwich Village, sort of for Philadelphia. And the Theater of Living Arts was opened up and the Snyderman Gallery and Eye’s gallery and other places, Zipper Head and later on and things like that. Bookstores.

Roberta Fallon: (Isaiah Zagar) goes back that far to South Street, I think. Okay. Um, so let’s cut right to the chase and ask about Chicken. The Chicken for our listeners is… the name comes from a sixties-era happening by Allan Kaprow, who was the famous happenings guy in the 60s, and it took place in Philadelphia. So explain about that. And where are the contemporary Chicken?

Sid Sachs: So, in Gershman Hall, which had been the Jewish Y in… it goes back to the 1920s, around 1958, a group of women that were involved there, and started the Arts Council. And, um, Audrey Sabol invited Billy Kluver, who was an engineer with Bell Labs, to do an exhibit.

And Audrey had wanted Billy to do an Abstract Expressionist show. And he said, no, no, no, no, no. You don’t want that. You want us, you want my friends that’s over. So, he put together a major show. He thought it was the first pop art show in the United States. It was actually like the second or third, Walter Hopps did one in California, but no one knew about it yet. And it was before the New Realism show in New York. Which gets more credit. So it’s the first East Coast Pop Art show, and it had a Rauschenberg, Johns, Jim Dine, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Bob Watts, George Brecht, Tingley, um, Robert Breer, I’m forgetting somebody, I’m sure, and then Allan Kaprow on November 7th, 1962 did the happening Chicken.

Roberta Fallon: And this was all in Philadelphia.

Sid Sachs: It was on, yeah, Broad and Pine.

Roberta Fallon: Okay.

Sid Sachs: And they did major, that was, that was like the first major thing. But then if you go in to see the show and Gershman Hall, you’ll see posters, many of which Sam Maitin designed, or later Jim McWilliams, who was at the University of the Arts, designed, and there’s everything from Merce Cunningham to Modern Jazz Quartet, to Ornette Coleman, Paul Taylor. If they didn’t have it at Gershman Hall, they were at Van Pelt Library. They were producing things throughout the city. This was before the ICA was established, so they were doing major things. They did a Multiples show. They did a Banner show, they did a sculpture show. They-

Roberta Fallon: “They” being The Arts Council?

Sid Sachs: The Arts Council. They did a West Coast show. They did a Seattle show. Helen Drutt was involved with that. The West coast show had ( Robert) Arneson and Vija Celmins, right out of grad school, and William T. Wiley and many other people like, Paul Harris that you wouldn’t know now, but he was in major sculpture shows, that were traveling during the time period.

Roberta Fallon: Were they self-funding The Arts Council, or where were they getting their money from? It sounds like it was a lot of, a lot of work.

Sid Sachs: I think that they, the women volunteered. They were professional women. They had gone to college, they were married to doctors and entrepreneurs. Like Audrey Sabol’s husband ran NFL Films with her son, and so that made a lot of money.

They were the first people to do football teams on TV. and Joan Kron’s husband was a surgeon and. Helen Drutt, did not have off and on, did not have a husband. She was self-made. Janet Kardon, her husband had a paper company. These were very intelligent women who were collectors and involved with the arts.

Like Audrey Sabol commissioned Wayne Thiebaud to do a portrait of her daughter, for example. And they had a big Ed Ruscha in their house. And, things like- these were early collectors of, of these works. And Acey Wolgin who lived on top of the Drake, she was involved with the Y Arts Council and they had a swimming pool and people like Andy Warhol would go up there. And there is actually a film that was filmed, a Warhol film that was filmed in that swimming pool. So there were a lot of things going on. The Avenue of the Arts, the University of the Arts was the Museum School at that point. The museum itself did not have much contemporary art going on. So on Broad Street, you had plays before they went to Broadway.

You had many theaters there, or you had jazz clubs in the vicinity, like the Showboat was on Lombard Street, but there are other jazz clubs there. You had the Museum School, and they were bringing, like when Dieter Roth was at the University of the Arts, they also had a Henry Moore show. They did a de Kooning show in the 50s.

Lots of things were going on, and they’re in between ’52 and ’54. There was a man named Raymond Hendler and he was an Abstract Expressionist who went to Paris after the Second World War on the GI Bill. And he, when it came back to Philadelphia, he was a Philadelphia native. He set up a gallery in his living room and he invited his friends and they included Sam Francis, who was shown for the first time in United States, Jean Paul Riopelle,

Willam de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Milton Resnick, people like that, along with Doris Stoffel and Bob Keyser. All Philadelphia artists. So, then about two blocks away, it was the Dubin Gallery. And that’s where Ken Noland had his first show outside of Washington, D.C. This is before, you know, before the Makler Gallery started, and before John Ollman came on board at Janet Fleischer.
Roberta Fallon: Wow.

Sid Sachs: So there were things going on then even the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. They had these annual shows and they showed all of the Abstract Expressionists, they just didn’t necessarily purchase them. So there was more going on at the Pennsylvania Academy, than the later representational work that it was noted for.

Roberta Fallon: So, fascinating, but we fell down the rabbit hole.

Sid Sachs: Sorry [Sid laughs].

Roberta Fallon: Getting back to The Chicken.

Sid Sachs: It happens when you talk to me [Roberta laughs].

Roberta Fallon: It’s okay. I loved that.

Sid Sachs: So Chicken was on November 7th, 1962, and Allan Kaprow did a performance. It has a score that the, that’s at the Getty and that will be published in the book.

But if you re-do a happening by Allan Kaprow, you have to adjust it. You have to change it. You have to reinvent it. So Alex Da Corte completely reinvented it. And the first, the first Chicken was mono- more or less monochromatic, because Kaprow didn’t have a lot of money for props, so it was wood and tar paper and plastic drop sheets and a record player and things like that. Alex-

Roberta Fallon: So in an installation.

Sid Sachs: It was an installation. There was a big, um, abstracted chicken made out of wood and tar paper. Kaprow was using a lot of tar roofing, tar, and tar paper. As was George Segal, his friend George Segal had a chicken farm. Um, so, um, which became his studio and the plaster figures in back of the black in front of the black tar paper were really striking. I remember going there when I was in grad school. Anyway, because I was at Rutgers. It was nearby.

Roberta Fallon: Okay, you went to the studio of George Segal?

Sid Sachs: Yeah. Rena, his daughter- Rena, his daughter was in grad school the second year I was there. But I went there the first year because Gary Kuehn, who I was a TA for, was good friends with George from the 60s. He’s the man in the Gas Station with a Coke bottle. He’s in a lot of bar scenes. George would use people he knew as models.

Roberta Fallon: Wrapped him in plaster, right?
Sid Sachs: Wrapped him in plaster, yeah. So in fact, when I was in grad school, I knew all of the people that are in the sculptures. And the person I shared a studio with is on a scaffolding with a big beam, in one of the sculptures. I don’t know what it’s called, but…

Roberta Fallon: Cool. So how did Alex change this monochromatic, you know, original one, and put his imprint on it? Cause he’s not monochromatic. He’s very high key color.

Sid Sachs: Actually, this was, this was an oddly monochromatic. It was mostly yellow, although it was a little bit of red, and a little bit of blue, but mostly yellow about, I would say 95% of it was yellow. It was kind of interesting.

Roberta Fallon: And what was it?

Sid Sachs: He re envisioned Chicken. In the original Chicken, it was, it was kind of, when you read it, it was kind of disgusting. I mean, they were plucking chick live chickens. They would pluck them. They would be swinging around their heads. They were vacuuming chickens. They crushed chickens. They threw raw eggs.

Roberta Fallon: Oh, stop stop [Roberta laughs].

Sid Sachs: They were cooking chickens and giving out chicken. Um. And so,there were no chickens harmed in this happening. Instead of chickens, Alex kind of converted chickens to moons. So there were a lot of moon language. Oh, and then there were also hawkers like selling goods in the original one, but they, what, Kaprow didn’t have the script.

He didn’t say what the people said. So we got Rosalyn Drexler to write some things. Some of which were used in in Alex’s piece, but a lot of it was written by the performers, I think, or Alex, I’m not sure who I’m, I’m speaking out of turn.
Roberta Fallon: So Rosalyn Drexler, let’s stop at that for a second because she is a Pop artist from the 60s who was totally overlooked and you revivified her career and brought her to light a number of years ago.

Sid Sachs: I was part of the process. I mean, there was, she had had a show at the Grey Art Gallery. She had shown at Mitchell Algus Gallery), and then I showed the work and I showed the work because I wasn’t sure that I would get funded for the Pop show that I later did. So it was like, in case I didn’t do that, at least I would have Rosalyn down as a one person show and we’re friends. I just, I actually went to her to get the score to give to Alex, I went to her house.
Roberta Fallon: Wow. And she must be 90 years old by now?

Sid Sachs: Almost.

Roberta Fallon: How sweet. I met her, and she’s lovely.
Sid Sachs: And she’s still writing. She’s still writing and she’s still painting.

Roberta Fallon: Wow. That’s great. Super. So she wrote what for Alex’s chicken?

Sid Sachs: I came to Rosalyn because she had been an actual happening by Robert Whitman and other people. She was at the Reuben Gallery where some of the happenings took place. And I thought she would, I came to her first to see if she would have an idea of what the happenings are like because there’s some scores and there are a few films that are silent.

But we don’t, you don’t, some of them, like the Oldenburg films are really, made aesthetic. They’re not the real film footage. You can tell they’re edited. And there are films of Bob Whitman’s films and Fahlstrom’s films, uh, happenings. But they’re rare and you really don’t get a sense of what Kaprow’s would be like.
So all you have film stills. Or not even film stills, you just have black and white pictures, so, and, uh, rudimentary scores. So you have to invent them. And I asked people like Helen Drutt and Penny Bach, who had been to the- and John Ollman, who had been to the original chicken, what it was like, and they just, they would say things, “Oh, it was amazing” or “It made me see the world differently”. But I didn’t know if it was funny or scary or what the mood was like. I couldn’t get a handle on it, so I didn’t have anything to give to Alex. So he sort of took it and went with it in an Alex way. In fact, I didn’t think that he would get that involved. I just asked him as a favor as an ex student, and he spent a whole year on it and there were like 18 people working on the project.

It was amazing. And then a bus load from New York came down with curators and his gallery and uh, there were 500 people at the opening- at the happening. Wow. Yeah. It was people on the floor and people up in the grandstand.

Roberta Fallon: And what was the role of the audience in all of this? I, I’m really confused by is it participatory or just stand around the edges and watch what’s going on.

Sid Sachs: It wasn’t really participatory. I stood on the floor cause in one of the practices I was upstairs, it was a little bit hard to see over the balcony cause he had surrounded the balcony with yellow neon and the kind of glare of the neon kind of obliterated what was going on. But also some of it was almost underneath the balcony.

Roberta Fallon: And this is in the swimming pool, right?

Sid Sachs: No no no no, it’s on the third floor. The swimming pool doesn’t exist anymore. That’s going to be the Light Box theater, right? That’s going to be the Lightbox Theater. I mean, right now it will be on the third floor, but when they finish the theater, there’s going to be a major venue for seeing film on Broad Street.

Roberta Fallon: Terrific.

Sid Sachs: We now own the Lightbox, its part of the University of the Arts.

Roberta Fallon: We are- we just broke some news here. I don’t know that I’ve heard this anywhere else. Lightbox is going to have a theater at University of the Arts. That’s great.

Sid Sachs: Yeah. Well, we need it.
Roberta Fallon: We do. The Ritz is closing venues. The Bourse is closed now.

Sid Sachs: But isn’t that going to be a film center? Did I hear that?

Roberta Fallon: I don’t know.

Sid Sachs: I thought it was going to be like the Philadelphia Film Society or something.

Roberta Fallon: Maybe, I don’t know.

Sid Sachs: Okay.

Roberta Fallon: Anyway, so, um, wow. And did you document the chicken? I know that Allan Kaprow only had black and white film.
Sid Sachs: Yeah. There were only black and white pictures. In fact, the Getty said they had slides. I was really excited and Jenny Hirsch went to research it and it was just, it was slides of the black and white pictures that Ed Sabol took, and they were already in Kaprow’s book.

There are a few different pictures ( of Alex’s happening) , a few different views. A lot of people documented it. There were videos being documented and there were several photographers taking pictures, and then some of the people in the audience photographed and filmed it .too. So I, there’s going to be a really good record of that particular happening.

Roberta Fallon: All right, so we’re running out of time here soon, Sid. Did we not cover anything that you want to cover? What, what do you want to say to people about Invisible City?

Sid Sachs: You only have till April 4th, and it’s a great show, and hopefully you’ll see all the venues. You don’t necessarily have to go to the Gershman.

That’s sort of icing on the cake. But it’s interesting. It’s like footnotes for the other objects. Each of the venues is really beautiful in its own way. And I’m really proud of the project and the catalog. Please buy the catalog. You’ll be glad you did, actually. pages of

Roberta Fallon: Three hundred pages of catalog. So what’s next? What are you working on now? Apart from getting over the adrenaline drop after this festival is over.

Sid Sachs: In about a month, we’re going to have a Jim Dine drawing show of works that have never been shown before, and there’s going to be a catalog for that. And I’m still working on the next year’s schedule.
I’m a little bit behind where I usually am at this point. Because we were working right up to the opening, installing and, and changing the installation because objects couldn’t come. So, I am a little bit behind. We’re going to try and go do a Gutai show because, Yuka Yokoyama is working on a project at the Japanese House.

Roberta Fallon: Yuka is the co-director of Marginal Utility, right?

Sid Sachs: Right. And there they, Pew gave the Japanese house in Fairmount Park a project because that house is from 1953. It was actually, it looks like an old Japanese home, but it was actually in the Museum of Modern Art in their sculpture garden in an architectural show, and it was given to the city of Philadelphia. And so they’re doing a whole project with its history. The architect that did that was friends with George Nakashima, who was also an architect, not just the furniture maker. So they’re doing a history of the people that involve the architects, involved with that and Gutai was a Japanese performative and object making group in Japan about the same time, the same era as that house. So I’m trying to assemble a Gutai show for that.

Roberta Fallon: It sounds marvelous and also very ambitious and watch for it coming soon. Thank you, Sid Sachs, and thank you folks for listening to Artblog Radio. Come back for the next podcast. We’re always here. Find them online at The Artblog. Bye!

Sid Sachs: Bye!